Synthetic biology

Synthetic biology refers to the design and construction of new biological systems not found in nature. Advances in this area offer great promise in areas such as healthcare, manufacturing and energy generation. However, there is also the prospect of potentially catastrophic results if this technology is misused, whether maliciously or inadvertently.

Concerns are intensifying about the need for robust governance arrangements, to maximise the benefits and minimize the risks from synthetic biology research. With this in mind, in July 2019, we worked with the US Army Engineer Research & Development Center to bring together scientists, national and international regulators, security agencies and businesses to consider the security implications of synthetic biology.

Under the auspices of NATO’s Science for Peace and Security Programme, the workshop sought to clarify the causes and potential consequences of biosecurity risks, and to explore potential response strategies.